The joy of working life

Pride: Josh and Jack.

Pride: Josh and Jack.

A weekly group in Blackheath is giving men with disabilities a renewed sense of purpose and pride.

Jack Stewart is 22 and for years he’s wanted a job, but to no avail. Now he proudly claims that he’s a furniture restorer, thanks to an initiative of Katoomba-based disability service provider Kirinari Community Services.

“It [furniture restoring] builds muscle and takes time. It’s therapeutic really. It stops you from being peed off with the world,” Mr Stewart said.

“It’s a great thing once I’ve completed something.”

Every Tuesday the men work on restoring old furniture, which is sourced through Dave O’Brien from Blackheath Community Op Shop and, once reconditioned, resold in the shop. The men share the profits.

Rob Hume from Blackheath Mitre 10 has also been helping out with materials and tools to get the group started. 

Fruits of their labour: Josh Abbott, Chris Sullivan, Bruce Green and Kirinari lifestyle manager Daniel Sepetauc by the produce grown at Blackheath.

Fruits of their labour: Josh Abbott, Chris Sullivan, Bruce Green and Kirinari lifestyle manager Daniel Sepetauc by the produce grown at Blackheath.

Mr O’Brien was only too happy to get on board.

“Everyone needs a break and I understand that. There’s many times over the years I have searched out someone to give me a break,” he said.

In his shop kids stuff is free. “People need to see people being generous, being kind,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s about people connecting and bringing the community together.”

The social aspect of the weekly group also provides a great sense of connection among its members.

Kirinari lifestyle manager Daniel Sepetauc said the group provided an environment for the guys to fit in, and provided meaning in their lives.

“Josh was floundering and not having a place that he fitted in to … they have really thrived up here,” Mr Sepetauc said.

He recently took Mr Stewart on a break to Canowindra and they met some backpackers in the pub.

“Jack introduced himself and said he was a furniture restorer. You could hear the pride in his voice,” Mr Sepetauc said.

The group have also built garden beds and are growing their own produce and seedlings, which they intend to sell at Blackheath markets.

“I love gardening,” said Bruce Green from Katoomba.

“It’s good to get out of the house and work with the blokes.

“I look forward to it each week.”

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